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A session of the Presidential Human Rights Council, December 11, 2018

‘We can’t operate with common-sense concepts’ Putin's spokesman explains why Russia is imprisoning Jehovah's Witnesses

Source: Meduza
A session of the Presidential Human Rights Council, December 11, 2018
A session of the Presidential Human Rights Council, December 11, 2018
Alexey Druzhinin / Kremlin Press Service / TASS / Scanpix / LETA
December 11, 2018

Vladimir Putin: Turning to the Jehovah's Witnesses: [...] We must treat all religions equally — that’s a fact. But we also need to consider the country and the society in which we live. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should be counting the representatives of religious communities among the various destructive or even terrorist organizations.

Jehovah's Witnesses are also Christians, and I don’t really understand why they’re persecuted. So we just need to analyze this. That’s what we need to do. I will speak to [Supreme Court Chief Justice] Vyacheslav Mikhailovich [Lebedev], and we will try to do this.

February 6, 2019

Verdict by Oryol’s Zheleznodorozhny District Court: The court finds that Dennis Christensen, knowingly aware that the type of activity by the local religious organization the Oryol Jehovah's Witnesses and that, in relation to this organization, a court order to liquidate this group for extremist activity had entered force, resided in the city of Oryol and deliberately committed actions from January 18, 2017, to May 25, 2017, of an organized nature intended to continue the group’s illegal activities.

The court finds Dennis Christensen guilty of violating Section One of Federal Criminal Code 282.2 and sentences him to six years imprisonment in a general penal colony.

February 7, 2019

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov: We don’t have the right to comment on the court ruling that recognized this organization as extremist.

As for what you call the president’s “parting instructions” at the conclusion of the Human Rights Council session, which took place at the Kremlin on December 11, 2018: There’s a quite extensive list, and one of the provisions concerns this topic. So something will be done here, and the issue will be worked out. But we don’t know yet in what way.

Question: The president said quite clearly that this doesn’t mean we should count religious community representatives among destructive, terrorist organizations. He called this complete nonsense, and promised to give it his attention and deal with it. Now a man has been sentenced to six years in prison. Has there been a careful study of the issue?

Peskov: There will be. It’s a process. The issue is complicated, but it’s still on the agenda.

Question: In terms of common sense, are the Jehovah's Witnesses an extremist organization or a religious group?

Peskov: We can’t operate with common-sense concepts for state purposes. First and foremost, we operate with concepts of legality and illegality. In this case, the activity of this religious organization is illegal.

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